I have just finished a couple of very intense weeks of shooting and am trying to collect my thoughts and analyze what parts of that work really 'worked' for me. What was it on a particular assignment that felt right, or didn't?
It's really about style. Do I have one? What is it like? I know that there are things that I want to show and say, and when I shoot, if I have those things in my mind and am successful in making photographs that bring those things to life, I am happy. I know that I have done something. I know that that's my style. It may not be my style a few years from now, nor was it my style a few years ago, but it is today. I need to have a connection to the idea and to the subject and the rest is making art.
That's why I love to work with subjects and clients who want me to create photographs for them that are in my style. It's simply a matter of creating the environment and working with the subject to make my ideas into reality. I'm happy, and when they see the results, they are happy. That's what it's about.
If you're being hired because you are a photographer, but the client is simply looking for a commodity shot, and not what floats your boat, take your life jacket! (sorry ;-) You may be a capable, competent professional, but if it's not the kind of work that you feel is your style, think twice. It will probably work out perfectly well! But will you be happy?
This is why we specialize. Right? You want your visibility to reflect where you want to go, not wherever you might have been, unless of course you've been on the right track for a while. I don't think Coca-Cola is inclined to show images of their famous mistake, "New Coke", in their marketing materials. Like most/all photographers, we have have several of those efforts somewhere on our hard drives, but they probably should stay there. Your style is you and you want people to want you to create for them what you do best. I like to create interesting, informal studio portraits in my small space in Lowell, but I also really enjoy location portraits, which anyone who does this kind of shooting knows, come with a whole bunch of logistical fun, but the results can be worth it many times over. But it's important that I show that kind of work because it is my style, what I love to shoot, and what I want people to want me to create for them.